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As I’ve written in a previous post, my friends live various distances from me in the greater Los Angeles area, so a visit requires advance planning to avoid peak traffic congestion and special events, like a game at the Coliseum, or a concert at Staples Center. Spending time with my friends is always worth the trip, and sometimes I get the added bonus of a meal with a view. We had an early dinner at 22nd Street Landing Seafood Grill and the handy paper place mats showed exactly where we were 🙂

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Fresh fish dinners run in the $30 range with soup or salad, steamed vegetables and a side. I chose a lobster bisque that had pieces of lobster but tasted more like an underseasoned creamy potato soup than a bisque.

We all chose Halibut but with different sides, my choice was coleslaw, my friends chose mashed and baked potatoes respectively. The portions of fish were all very thin, and unfortunately, overcooked. I wish the appearance of a large surface area was less important to both diners and restaurant management in the US:( None of our plates were seasoned at all, but they offer cajun or blackened options on the grilled fish, so next time that might be an option, but with the thin filets, that would not have helped the doneness. Thankfully every table had salt and ground pepper, so at the very least we could add basic seasoning.

 The view and the company were spectacular 🙂

After dinner, we had beer for dessert at Brouwerij West (pronounced brewery). This immense space hosts musical guests, food trucks, and families (including dogs on leashes), with indoor and outdoor tables.

The Taproom offers full pours or tastes of their brews as well as cans to go and they encourage you to bring in food from outside, so you can actually picnic at their picnic tables. Brouwerij has a bit of something for everyone, and if you can’t decide, you can just get a few tastes and create a flight:)

Yes, these are all beers: the Picnic Lightning IPA, two tastes of the Starfish IPA and the Belgian Sans Souci, and the fruity Dog Ate My Homework, made with blackberry juice. My friend liked this brew so much that she took a four pack of cans home!

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When foodie friends say they are trying a place and invite me to join them for dinner, I almost always say “Yes!”. After an afternoon at LACMA, we were literally at the door of Son of a Gun waiting for them to open. Since there were four of us and only three of us love oysters, we settled on half a dozen to start. I could easily have eaten all of them and another dozen (my record is 3 dozen in one sitting). They were the freshest, most well opened ones I’ve eaten since I’ve been back in the US. The grated horseradish and a squeeze of lemon were all I sparingly added to my pair.

We decided to order a variety of dishes so we could taste a bit of everything; first out of the kitchen was the lemonfish poke with black radish escabeche, citrus, and crispy sunchoke for $18. The plates are small, so we each had about one bite. The ingredients were good quality but the flavors underwhelmed.

When we were warned by our server that the lobster roll was small we didn’t expect it to be this tiny for $11. Yes those are potato chips to give you an idea of the size, and once again we each had a bite of the two we ordered. We all enjoyed the buttered brioche more than the seafood dressed in a nondescript bit of lemon aioli that tasted of neither lemon nor garlic.

We tried the hamachi with galbi vinaigrette, radish, and radish sprout for $18 that was like the poke with the use of fresh quality fish but it did not wow any of us with the flavors.

Our favorite dish of the evening was the half pound of chilled peel and eat shrimp for $22 that did not need the side of lime mustard sauce.

We doggedly kept ordering, next was the yellowfin tuna, tortilla, leche de tigre, and avocado for $23. It arrived like this, and yes the size was about 2 tablespoonfuls.

Underneath the drape of tuna was a small mound of avocado mixed with crisp tortilla strips. I wish I could say that it was something other than a poor plating attempt to justify the price tag.

We tried some cooked dishes like the shrimp toast for $13 that was again a very small bite with more toast than shrimp.

We didn’t want to give up, so we ordered the trout almondine on asparagus rice with lemon brown butter and dill for $25. It was the heartiest dish we ordered and like most of the other plates, lacking any zest.

Everything we ordered was prepared with quality ingredients and the prices reflected that, but we were sorely disappointed by some of the very boring flavors and nearly all of the dishes. The blatant overcharging for miniscule amounts of seafood or fish while using bread, toast, or avocado to make the portions seem bigger was so distasteful to me that I will not be returning for anything other than the oysters, which is a sad conclusion to an evening where four of us spent more than $250.

Even though Sushi Gen is probably my favorite place for fish, their location and popularity requires advance planning. Maki & Sushi is a good Plan B, located in a strip mall with easy parking and easy freeway access. They have the usual combination boxes with teriyaki, tempura, and sushi, but I chose the chirashi, a generous bowl with some upscale ingredients like amaebi, scallop, and unagi. The octopus salad on top was an unusual bonus topping, and because I requested no salmon, my bowl was nearly all white fish. Miso soup came with the meal and for $23 this was a good value. The cuts and presentation were not spectacular, but the service was efficient.

 

Church and State was one of my favorite places to go for French food before I left for France, so I wanted to go back and see if they would be able to maintain their rank on my list. The short answer is, maybe. I chose their salad niçoise with seared yellowtail for $18. The presentation was very nice, and the piping of tapenade around the plate added a nice punctuation to the salad, but as you can see the circles of tuna were tiny morsels for what was supposed to be a main course salad. The vinaigrette and vegetables were top notch (organic). They do have a prix fixe menu at $23 for 3 courses at lunch that is a bargain, but for a la carte considering the other options in town at that price point, I won’t be rushing back.

Fish King is a market, a fishmonger, a cafe, and a family owned and run pillar of the community since the 1950’s. It’s a beautifully clean, neatly organized, and pleasurable place to shop. The fish will be better than at your local chain supermarket, Whole Foods included, but don’t expect any bargains for the quality. Since I was too hungry to cook, I chose to have them prepare my halibut cajun style with a side of vegetables and coleslaw. At a little under $15, this was a big healthy meal, but I was disappointed that a fish cafe overcooked the fish filet and undercooked the vegetables. Even with the large assortment of condiments, I couldn’t fix my plate. I would happily buy fish or sushi from them, but I won’t have them cook anything for me again.

At this point, you may be wondering if I found any good places, but I saved the best for last 🙂 Fanta  Sea Grill is nearly hidden in a complex with a large Rite Aid, and the only reason I saw it at all was because I was going to the drugstore. They are a wholesale seafood importer, so they procure fresh fish at excellent prices, and as they proudly proclaim, they use no butter or msg in their preparations. I chose the garlic shrimp to go, and they not only included a large portion of prawns, but delicious vegetables, rice, and salad with citrus ponzu, all for under $20. The prawns were cooked perfectly, with easy to peel off shells, swimming in a garlic broth that I used over the rice and vegetables for an added savory burst of fun. This was so good, I literally licked my fingers after peeling the shrimp!

Tender Greens only has tuna on their regular menu, but sometimes their daily specials are fish, and one day I lucked out with Artic Char. All their fish is sourced from responsible fisheries, so no worries about healthy sustainable fish on their menu:) I paired the perfectly seared filet on top of quinoa with an arugula salad, making my taste buds dance in happiness.

I miss going to the marché in France and having fish and shellfish galore at several fishmongers, all competing for my business with the freshest catch and the best prices. Americans don’t seem as enamored by preparing their fish whole as the French; most people I know here want only the filet and nothing else. I have eaten with friends who literally sent a fish back because the head was still attached 😦

Having grown up eating whole fish (yes, I am that person who loves eating the eyeballs), I searched for some place nearby that had a fresh varied selection other than Whole Foods, which had only the American trio of salmon, halibut, and swordfish, with an occasional appearance of sea bass or trout. After a scary journey to a dark, dingy, very smelly “fish market” which shall remain nameless, I finally found Seafood City. Yes, there are Asian markets nearby, but none offer the freshness and variety of Seafood City. A great deal of their fish is farmed, and some have been frozen and defrosted, but for sheer selection they can’t be beat on the East side of Los Angeles. Santa Monica Seafood on the Westside has perhaps twice as big of a selection with more high end and wild caught choices, but price wise they are also twice as expensive.

The market is in Glendale in the mall that houses only a Target and a Macy’s, so there is plenty of parking and easy freeway access. Being a market, they also have vegetables, fruit, noodles, and all kinds of foods Filipino’s might crave, since that is their primary clientele. There is a small butcher case, but I’ve never seen anyone in line for anything other than the fish counter. It took me awhile to understand the system, but basically, you choose the fresh fish or seafood you wish with tongs, putting your choices into clear plastic bags.

You line up to tell them if you would like your fish cleaned and or fried FOR FREE. I opted for cleaning only, so I was given a claim check for pick up at another counter. The wait varies according to the lines; one day I waited 15 minutes for my fish, on a busier day I waited nearly 30 minutes. If you just want shrimp, mussels, calamari, or crabs, they will package up your baggie in a sturdier bag, wrap it and put a price tag on it immediately at the first counter. It’s a much simpler process than it seems, and the customers will help you figure it out if you get confused. If all else fails, get one of the prepared packages of fish to go 🙂

 Yes, you are reading that correctly, whole yellowtail for $3.99 per pound!

Wild Seabream is one of my favorite fish and

for the same price, I also bought wild yellowtail snapper.

They have clams, oysters, squid, and mussels. If you want your shellfish swimming, they have tanks of live lobsters and crabs at the end of the counter. The Maine lobster was only $12.99 a pound, so if you are lucky there will be some left.

 Many sizes of shrimp were available, all at very low prices.

 One day they had a huge tub of live crayfish

and a huge tub of live blue crabs!

Fresh calamari (which I cleaned) and stir fried with bok choy.

Wild White Perch from Canada which I roasted with scallions.

If those crayfish and crabs are still there when I go back, I may make a cajun shellfish boil 🙂

Los Angeles has so many food options, it would take several lifetimes to cover all the choices, changes, and cuisines, but it’s fun trying 🙂 Today’s post is on some places where I only ate one meal, but I will be returning to all three.

King’s Gastro Pub is in an alley behind Old Town in Pasadena. I walked by one day and made a mental note to come by because it has a casual dog friendly patio, live music some nights, and once a month they do a pig roast! I’m not a beer connoisseur, but if you are, they have 24 on tap, as well as a full bar, so this place should be on your radar. I came for brunch one warm Winter day; it was around 78 F in January and people were in shorts and sandals! The patio filled up quickly as we got one of the last tables for our brunch. This is a family friendly place during the day because not only were dogs on the patio, but also lots of kids, and they even have high chairs!

We decided to share an order of fish and chips. The fish was a marvelous beer battered cod and so crisp and tasty we didn’t need any sauce other than a squeeze of the lemons. The fries were addictive and we ate every single one.

We shared a very brightly Californian salad of goat cheese, carrots, spring greens, walnuts, and red onions (covered by very greasy but fresh naan which we didn’t enjoy that much). This salad could have easily been a light meal by itself. Both the fish and chips and salad were under $15 each and well worth it.

Redbird is in Vibiana, the first city’s first Catholic Cathedral, now a full service event venue. The chef/owner, Neal Fraser, has always been one of my favorites since his days at Grace (which was one of my favorite restaurants until it closed in 2010). The DineLA $25 menu was a great excuse to experience what he’s been working on lately in a stately location.

I chose the starter of chicken pot pie with hearts, thigh, thyme, hen of the woods mushrooms. It arrived in a tiny saucepan that was both functional (oven to table in one receptacle) and fun.

Underneath the flaky top was a rich filling of complex and rich root vegetables with chicken pieces that was so rich it could have been a meal in and of itself. The filling was a bit salty, so you will want to dip the top into it.

The gorgeous Wyoming Golden Trout, with sultanas, oregon hazelnuts, quinoa, spinach and brown butter was an enormous, perfectly done filet, with crispy skin, tender flesh, and interesting sides. I loved the contrasting textures of the crunchy hazelnuts, the grainy quinoa, and the soft spinach. I have no idea how I managed to eat this entire serving after the chicken pot pie, but it was so good, I couldn’t stop. I just took my time and small bites 🙂

The last stop on today’s blog post is at Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica.  Taking advantage of DineLA once again, I went for a $25 lunch. When I took a bite of the Ahi tuna tartare with lemon and olive oil on a herb pistou crostini, I smiled in delight. The  crunchy toast and the herb pistou added depth of flavor to the fresh fish with a brilliant twist on the ubiquitous appetizer.

Their famous lobster roll, offered dressed or undressed (I chose naked) on either brioche or butter lettuce (so it can be gluten-free for those who care), served with a large side of fries. The lobster was moist, warm, and already had plenty of butter, so the melted butter on the side was completely unnecessary. What can you add to lobster to make it any better? Nothing 🙂

My go to method of getting to DTLA is via Metro, especially during peak traffic hours and any day it rains in Los Angeles. Another perk of traveling by train is that I don’t have to think about whether I can drink since I don’t have to drive, so as I was waiting for a friend at Water Grill, I had a nice and spicy Bloody Mary. At $15 it was both strong and tasty enough to merit the price.

The lunch crowd was a bit sparse since it was chilly and rainy, but it did fill up a bit more as it got later.

The light fixtures at the bar carried the nautical theme with a fishing rod base.

When my friend arrived, we decided to split an appetizer as well as have the DineLA $25 menu, which included an appetizer and entrée. The Wild Tahitian Big Eye Tuna crudo with red beet jam, horseradish cream, mizuna, red beet chips and olive oil $15 which we shared had perfect tuna, but neither of us liked the horseradish cream which had neither bite nor flavor, but we did enjoy the beet chips for the contrasting texture.

We both chose the New England Clam Chowder with manila clams and Applewood smoked bacon as our appetizer. It was not the thick creamy chowder we were expecting and had a tart component which neither of us appreciated, but we enjoyed the soup enough to eat most of our very copious servings.

We loved all three kinds of freshly baked bread with butter and without. My favorite was the maldon salt, but the cheese and olive breads were great too.

We ordered the wild spanish grilled octopus $19 with tomato, feta and nicoise olives and when we tried to cut it it was so tough we each took one bite and sent it back. It’s difficult to ship any food overseas and maintain its integrity, and octopus is also fragile in that it is perishable. They saw how charred it was and when we said it was too tough to cut with our knives, they immediately offered to redo or replace our order. We decided to go with the crudo to completely avoid any risk of overcooking.

My friend chose the Wild Costa Rican Mahi Mahi caponata with Sherry gastrique and maldon salt and enjoyed it although the thinner parts of the filet were slightly overcooked; it’s a fine line between under and over cooking any piece of fish which is cut unevenly. Since we both cook, we know the challenge well and found it was still a nicely done piece of fish.

I ordered the salad nicoise with wild Australian Albacore with white anchovy and haricot verts and found this deconstructed presentation as unusual as the choice to serve the Albacore over beans. The ingredients were all good, but I had to add seasoning to my plate to perk it up a bit.

The atmosphere and service were impeccable; this is a perfect setting for a business meeting or if you want a good drink at a stylish bar. Portions are large, and the fish is very fresh, so if you stick to the oysters or raw/rare choices you can’t go wrong.

Talented people may begin working for other people, but most yearn to strike out on their own and create unfettered art, whether their art is hung in galleries, or presented on plates. Some are not good at business and do not work with people who are adept at the skills required, so they end up back where they started, but others soar to new heights as they flex their creative muscles.

Fishing With Dynamite is a small restaurant in Manhattan Beach, the seafood outpost next door to MB Post, both owned by renowned chef David LeFevre. Reservations for the 35 seat space are hard to get, so book your seat at least a week in advance, especially if you want to eat during prime dining hours. It’s worth the trouble; trust me:) I went twice in two weeks during DineLA week because their $25 lunch menu was too good not to repeat (prices noted below are the regular menu prices).

The rockfish and shrimp ceviche, with persimmon, radish, serrano, cilantro, avocado, and lime for $12 was as wonderful to eat as it was to behold. The textures and flavors belied the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and two orders would have made a very nice light meal.

Another appetizer was the hamachi, served with ponzu, avocado (hidden underneath the hamachi), radish, serrano and shiso for $18. If you are craving sashimi, this is a dressed up version.

When I saw the Shrimp Po Boy for $14 delivered to the table next to me, I had to order it on one of my visits. It comes LOADED with crunchy shrimp, weiser potato chips, and topped with a cajun remoulade on a buttered and toasted brioche bun. There was no way to hold this, even with two hands, until I ate two or three of the shrimp first!

My favorite meal was the Ono special during DineLA week; grilled rare, and served with eggplant (underneath the fish), pinenut gremolata, celery, and orange.

I don’t usually eat desserts after two courses, but I am very glad I got the Key Lime Pie, made with a graham cracker crust and kaffir lime meringue for $8. It was the BEST version of Key Lime Pie I’ve ever tasted!

The fresh meringue and the creamy filling were just slightly sweet and slightly tart over the buttery crust. I took half it it to go, unable to leave what I could not finish!

After a great meal, great scenery 🙂

Chelsea Market is both a place to shop and a place to eat, with temptations galore,

from shops selling every conceivable kitchen gadget,

to wines,

and food, both raw and cooked.

Need spices

or nuts to add to your recipe? No worries, it’s all here.

Freshly made pastas,

shellfish,

sushi appetizers,

chowders,

smoked fish,

or cooked lobsters,

with a side of caviar,

or some fresh fish.

A Japanese television crew was filming a first taste of Maine lobsters as I filmed them 🙂

For sweet lovers, there was cake, gelato, and freshly made donuts.

The hardest choice is where to go next 🙂

I ate at Estiatorio Milos in Las Vegas, but their restaurant in New York City was one of the best seafood meals I’ve eaten in the US. Many of the items on the menu are flown in directly from the Mediterranean, and the fresh flavors shone in every dish. It may have “slightly” helped that my eating partner was Greek and spoke to the chef in Greek before our meal:)

The interior decor is a simple wispy white, with a private dining area above the main dining room.

If a chef says, “Let me give you some things to start with”, you should just say “Yes, thank-you” and smile. The first appetizer was a simple crab claw, so fresh, tender, and juicy that we did not even taste the sauce on the side. The olive oil for the bread had freshly snipped oregano leaves in it, which the waiter snipped from the tabletop plant before whisking it away.

The second appetizer was langoustines served with a brandy shot which the chef said should be used to dunk the heads in before sucking out the insides. We did as we were told after eating the ethereal meat from the tail 🙂

The third appetizer was a stack of lightly fried zucchini chips with a wonderful coarse salt and sour cream center which were so addictive we “somehow” finished it.

After THREE appetizers, the chef chose a fresh branzino, already deboned for us. When he asked the simple question of “Did you want the head?”, I was immediately overjoyed. The fish was simply done with capers and parsley, with nothing masking the purity of fresh fish.

A side of greens,

and after the main dish course, there was of course fresh cheese,

and greek yogurt with honey and fruit to finish the meal when you tell the chef that you have no room for dessert 🙂 A bottle of Nichetri wine from Santorini and all this fabulous fresh seafood was over $500 for two with tax and tip, but if you want to taste the best of Greek seafood in the US, it’s still less than the price of airfare….

Circo is across the street from Estiatorio Milos, and is as Italian as Estiatorio is Greek. The Maccioni family’s casual offspring (Sirio is from Le Cirque) has a fun circus atmosphere with seriously old school roots in its menu. A $25 lunch prix fixe menu is a bargain for a midtown restaurant with this kind of quality.

The lunch menu was more than I could eat, so I chose the Cacciucco Alla Livornese, one of their signature dishes, with monkfish, prawns, calamari, octopus, mussels, and clams for $29. It was everything a hearty rustic seafood should should be, with earthy aromas and depth of flavor.

My companion ordered the arugula salad for $14 and added chicken $7, because after the meal at Estiatorio, there was literally no real estate left for more food.

Even though neither of us had room for dessert, a plate of little bites was offered with espresso, a sweet way to start the afternoon.

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